Stock Company

After worrying about the vexatious question of KING KONG/SON OF KONG stock footage in CITIZEN KANE, it’s a pleasure to pin down another example of stock footage in an RKO movie.


The ship in KING KONG, the Venture.


The ship in Val Lewton and Mark Robson’s THE GHOST SHIP — the Erutnev.

Not really, of course. It’s the same ship, same footage, flipped into mirror-world by the optical printer in order to create a different shot for the Lewton movie. We’ve heard for ages that Lewton was ordered to make a shipboard movie in order to make use of an existing set — was the set the ship from KONG too? It seems unlikely that it would still be in place ten years after Cooper and Schoedsack’s ape movie was shot, although the Skull Island gate was apparently still there by the time they started shooting GONE WITH THE WIND in 1938-9, when they supposedly set fire to it as part of the burning of Atlanta (what colossal threat did the antebellum Atlantans fear so much that they constructed this giant barrier? Perhaps the thought of a 50ft high black guy carrying off white women was preying on their superstitious native minds.)

Unfortunately, all ships look alike to me, so I find it hard to tell if the deck of the Kong boat is the same as that in Lewton’s modest masterpiece — I will leave this to someone more nautically expert.

10 Responses to “Stock Company”

  1. It IS hard to tell but it could very well be the same. Commonly in Hollywood studios sets were dressed and redressed over and over again. That’s why building a new set (as Hughes did at RKO for His Kind of Woman ) is always such a big deal. In this case as fog is involved in both films gettig down to the nittyy-gritty may be a sticky wicket. But I suspect it’s the same set slightly redresed.

  2. I enjoy all that stuff, spotting the Ambersons staircase in Cat People, etc. Lewton’s films seem to have existed almost entirely on borrowed sets. I wonder what the “Edinburgh” settings of The Body Snatcher were originally created for.

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show, filmed at Bray Studios, seems to use a lot of props from old Hammer films.

  3. ah the Lewton films–that’s probably the biggest omission from the RKO Story doc., which skips right over them, going from Welles to Dmytryk–or am I forgetting something?

  4. They devote about 15 mins to the Lewton period (which kept RKO alive, after all!) but this whole section is missing from the 45min cut. Lots of great bits have been deleted to make room for ads. Try and get a bootleg of the 1hr version, is my advice to everybody.

  5. ah! that makes perfect sense!

    an habituee of my favourite torrent site (perhaps you know it?) has promised to upload the full version soon–I’ll be ready to snatch it the moment it arrives!

  6. Always been curious about this “Ghost Ship” — as opposed to the ’52 Vernon Sewell “Ghost Ship” with Hazel Court and Dermot Walsh which we all know so well. Anything in the Lewton/Robson worth watching?

  7. Oh, the Lewton/Robson is terrific! Richard Dix is another of Lewton’s chilling, low-key maniacs, so quiet and un-showy that you can’t believe they’re even going to be major characters, let alone the main antagonist. And so naturally they’re all the more terrifying.

    It has some bloody violence and some really horrible deaths, and a brooding atmosphere, helped somewhat by Robson’s very factual filming style.

    Also, it’s one of the few films narrated by a mute.

    Appallingly, I haven’t managed to see the Sewell!

  8. More than one Lewton book I’ve read has stated that the GHOST SHIP tramp steamer set was originally built and used for John Ford’s 1940 THE LONG VOYAGE HOME.

    Sounds logical to me!

  9. RIP Claude.

    Glenn, thanks, that does sound convincing. The set would be a few years old by the time Lewton came to it, but that’s certainly likelier than Kong, and I presume the Gregg Toland connection means TLVH was an RKO movie.

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